I’ve never driven an Abarth before but I’ve always been curious. So when the opportunity to experience the Abarth 695C Rivale comes up obviously I dive at the chance. I love driving different cars, jumping in and figuring everything out. Especially as my car has no power steering, no electric windows, shot suspension… so the thought of carbon fibre, leather, a turbo and sport mode definitely appeals.
Let’s get down to the details of this model, so it’s a 695C Rivale – a hook up between Abarth and luxury yacht maker Riva. They’ve taken the best of the 595 series – the 180bhp 1.4 T-Jet Competizione and added two-tone paint, Akrapovic exhaust, Brembo brakes, Koni FSD dampers, BMC high performance air filter and a leather and carbon fibre interior. Then they topped it off by making it a convertible – which they managed to add a spoiler to! The 695C Rivale definitely looks the part, for a small car it’s got a hell of a lot of presence and those brake discs the size of dinner plates certainly hint at a darker side. Even more evidence of hooning potential is the exhaust on that thing. Damn. It’s certainly promising me something and I like what it’s getting at.
Jumping in – this is a nice place to be, I love a bit of carbon fibre and when you combine that with leather it’s a sleek, tasteful combo. Everything is luxurious in here – the seats have a bucket seat feel about them, I love the racing inspired steering wheel with carbon fibre detail at the top of perforated leather so you can see which way is up. The sound system is by Beats Audio and even the floor mats have leather on them; everything has been considered (apart from the turbo dial, that looks like a bit of an after-thought, some leather on top would have tied it in a bit more). The real fun starts when you turn the key. The sound of that twin Akrapovic exhaust is evil and yummy all at once – a surprising sound for such a small car. Already I’m smiling, then I press Sport Mode, put the pedal to the metal and we are well and truly off. Wow. Definite licence annihilater. The combination of a 1.4 litre turbo 4 cylinder straight 4 engine with peak torque of 250 NM at 3000 RPM and 180hp that does 0-62 in 6.7 seconds in a lightweight body with a short wheelbase equals a speedy monster ready to bite you in the ass. But a very well dressed one.
I’m in the middle of filming so this wee beastie is coming with me to Surrey from Manchester so I can try it out on the motorway. It’s a good test of comfort spending 5 hours sitting down and I am impressed. The seats are really supportive didn’t give me back ache and I was definitely not bored on the journey. The 695C has a sound system by Beats Audio and my favourite thing in the world is driving to my favourite playlist however, that exhaust sounds so utterly epic that the music takes a back seat. Variable speed limits and the general use of speed cameras is obviously a buzz kill and restrains what I can do in a car that wants to eat the road. I should have booked a track day. The country roads are a treat though, the Abarth takes those bends like they’re not even there. The combination of torque, speed and firm suspension is bang-on and equates to outstanding handling. My smile is bigger than ever.
Following on from a stint on the motorways the plan for the weekend is to shoot the car in contrasting locations around Manchester and experience the car on different roads. So I’ve roped in Anthony Partridge (my co-hoon from Goblin Works Garage) to help me out and share the love – because I want a second opinion on my new whip. Ant finds a pumping station with graffiti covered walls which also gives us the opportunity to shoot this beauty. Bringing the Abarth here illustrates perfectly how this car is at home in pretty much any environment – fast roads, slow roads, urban exploration… ah the benefits of having a small car – and a hot hatch at that.
Despite the rain we’re having fun especially in Sport Mode and when we finally get onto the good roads we let it rip. Well as much as is possible behind Sunday drivers. If I had more time I would take the 695C to a track with no restrictions, no other people hogging the road and no speed traps. It’s always good to discuss cars with fellow petrol heads, especially Ant as he prefers two wheels so I was intrigued to find out what he thought. We actually made a little video which will be on IGTV channel This Custom Life. So I’ll send you over there to find out what his views were on the Abarth….
After putting the car through its paces I can’t celebrate the Rivale enough, it’s definitely something I’d add to my collection as a dedicated pocket rocket. A car I would take to the track and drive to set. The sound, the attitude, the torque, the speed, the cocky attitude; it’s a winning combination. Throw in the history of Abarth and the collaboration with Riva and you’ve got yourself a very well-bred hellion. The only two elements I didn’t like were the aforementioned Turbo dial finish and the petrol cap is a pain in the ass to get off. I’m sure there’s a knack to it but it wasn’t one I could get the hang of annoyingly. But honestly, the car was so impressive these were not even things I would worry about. So in conclusion, because if I don’t conclude soon I’ll be waffling on about Alby for pages (yes I named the car) – the Abarth 695C Rivale? Love, want, need. Drop the mic.
Photographs by Anthony Partridge and myself, taken on the Huawei P20 Pro.